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Aidan Fishman

Paying Tribute to the Victims of the 1994 AMIA Bombing in Buenos Aires

by Aidan Fishman, July 25, 2011

On Monday, June 18th, members of the Winnipeg Jewish and Argentinean communities gathered in the Berney Theatre to remember the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This heinous terrorist attack constituted one of the deadliest assaults on diaspora Jewish communities during the past few decades. Eighty-five people, both Jews and non-Jews, were brutally murdered when a car bomb exploded outside the AMIA building, shattering the tranquility of a beautiful Shabbat morning.

The commemoration and candle-lighting ceremony was a cooperative event, featuring contributions from the Argentinean Manitoban Association, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, B'nai Brith and Congregation Shaarey Zedek. These disparate threads were woven into a cohesive program by Shelley Faintuch, Communications Relations Director for the Jewish Federation, who also composed an excellent op-ed on the bombing featured in this very newspaper and in the online Jerusalem Post. The event featured an impressive turnout, with the Berney Theatre roughly three-quarters full, mostly with members of the Argentinean Jewish community.

The event opened with the screening of a short film, “Stop Terrorism: The AMIA Bombing”, which provided a brief overview of the tragedy. Particularly poignant were interviews with those who had lost loved ones in the attack, including one man who had lost his teenage daughter. The Argentinean prosecutor responsible for the case, Alberto Nisman, vented his frustration with the inability to bring those responsible to justice. The Argentinean government blames the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah and its patrons in the Iranian regime, but Iran has repeatedly refused to cooperate with Argentinean authorities or with Interpol.

Sergio Glogowski, a member of the local Argentinean Jewish community, served as Master of Ceremonies. In a touching tribute, individuals called to the stage throughout the program lit 85 separate candles to remember each one of the innocent victims.

Luis Jajam relayed greetings on behalf of the Argentinean Manitoban Association, emphasizing the importance of defying the terrorists by maintaining our democracy and continuing to participate in public life. Alan Yusim delivered a “Where do We Stand” presentation on behalf of B'nai Brith Canada, condemning the callous intransigence of the Iranian regime, notably the appointment of one of the culprits to the post of Defence Minister in 2009.

Winnipeg South Centre MP Joyce Bateman was on hand to convey condolences from the Federal Government, while Jennifer Howard, Minister of Labour and Immigration, performed the same role for the Provincial counterpart. Councillor Paula Havixbeck of Charleswood-Tuxedo was expected to represent the City at the event, but was absent due to a family matter. However, River Heights Councillor John Orlikow was in attendance.

Cantor Anibal Mass of the Shaarey Zedek recited the traditional El Malei Rachamim and Kaddish prayers for the victims. Camila Almosnino, a member of Shaarey Zedek's Junior Chazzanim program, immediately followed with a stirring rendition of Israeli singer Sarit Hadad's song “KeSheHaLev Bocheh” (When the Heart Cries). 
Mr. Glogowski then switched roles and delivered a written statement from the Government of Argentina, noting the devastating impact of the terrorist attack on Argentinean society as a whole. The statement also reaffirmed  the government's unwavering determination to execute judgment against the perpetrators. However, with Argentinean exports to Iran currently valued around 1.5 billion dollars, this pledge seems less than sincere.

Ben Cohen, President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, had been tapped to present closing remarks, but was busy representing the community abroad. In his stead, Senior Vice President Israel Ludwig delivered a prepared speech by Mr. Cohen which was very well received by the audience. Mr. Cohen's rousing statement highlighted the need for Jews worldwide to combat the Iranian terror regime, and ended with the ancient, immortal Jewish pledge of defiance, “Am Yisrael Chai!” (The Jewish Nation Lives!).

Although seventeen long years have passed, the pain and suffering of the AMIA casualties and their families has not been erased. Most galling is the continued failure to punish the thugs responsible, as they continue to hide behind their Hezbollah and Iranian masters. The Islamic Republic is committed to terror; its bloody fingerprints are on outrages from the 1994 AMIA bombing to the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri to the continued insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Needless to say, such a state must not be allowed to acquire nuclear arms. Sadly, it may require the violent overthrow of the regime to finally bring closure to those affected by the deadly events in Buenos Aires on July 18th, 1994.

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